Statistical Science meets Philosophy of Science

December 2, 2012
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(This article was originally published at Error Statistics Philosophy » Statistics, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

2010 statsciphilsci conference logoMany of the discussions on this blog have revolved around a cluster of issues under the general question: “Statistical Science and Philosophy of Science: Where Do (Should) They meet? (in the contemporary landscape)?”  In tackling these issues, this blog regularly returns to a set of contributions growing out of a conference with the same title (June 2010, London School of Economics, Center for the Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, CPNSS), as well as to conversations initiated soon after. The conference site is here.  My most recent reflections in this arena (Sept. 26, 2012) are here.

Opening with an informal (recorded) exchange:  ”A statistical scientist meets a philosopher of science: a conversation between Sir David Cox and Deborah Mayo”, this special topic of the on-line journal, Rationality, Markets and Morals (RMM), edited by Max Albert[i]—also a conference participant —has been an excellent home for continual updates to which we often refer. In particular, the interested reader can find on this blog several “philosophical deconstructions” (generally by me) and “U-Phils” (by others) for most of the papers in that special topic of RMM (search “deconstruction” or the author’s name)[ii].  The current U-Phil is here[iii]. We still have a few we haven’t taken up yet.

Here is the RMM blub:

Rationality, Markets and Morals: Studies at the Intersection of Philosophy and Economics
Guest Editors: Deborah G. Mayo, Aris Spanos and Kent W. Staley

Statistical Science Meets Philosophy of Science: The Two-Way Street

At one level of analysis, statisticians and philosophers of science ask many of the same questions: What should be observed and what may justifiably be inferred from the resulting data? How well-tested or confirmed are hypotheses with data? How can statistical models and methods bridge the gaps between data and scientific claims of interest? These general questions are entwined with long standing philosophical debates, so it is no wonder that the statistics crosses over so often into philosophical territory.

The “meeting grounds” of statistical science and philosophy of science are or should be connected by a two-way street: while general philosophical questions about evidence and inference bear on statistical questions (about methods to use, and how to interpret them), statistical methods bear on philosophical problems about inference and knowledge. As interesting as this two-way street has been over many years, we seem to be in need of some entirely new traffic patterns! That is the basis for this forum. 

Authors are:

David Cox, Andrew Gelman, David F.  Hendry, Deborah G. Mayo, Stephen Senn, Aris Spanos, Jan Sprenger, Larry Wasserman


[i] Along with Hartmut Kliemt and Bernd Lahno.

[ii] Actually the “deconstruction” activity on this blog began with my reaction to a paper by Jim Berger. See a description of my return to the Bayesian/frequentist issues in 2006, in a recently reblogged post. Berger had replied in ‘Jim Berger on Jim Berger’. 

[iii]I am hoping (LSE)PH500 participants will contribute a short (<1000 words) commentary for this one, and deliberately made the cut-off some time after our first seminar on the likelihood principle (~Dec 5, with leeway).


Filed under: Statistics, StatSci meets PhilSci



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